Nicklaus Design, which has created more tournament and championship courses than any firm in the world, added another to its burgeoning résumé when organizers for the South African Open Championship announced recently they will be hosting this year’s tournament at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate near Johannesburg. The Jack Nicklaus-designed Serengeti layout officially opened just two years ago and was named the Best New Course in South Africa for 2010 by Golf Digest.
Ernie Els has also confirmed that he will defend his title at this year’s championship, which will be played from November 24-27.
This will be the first major tournament hosted by Serengeti, with the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course sure to make as much of an impression on the professionals as it has on the South African golf landscape.
“It is an incredible honor for us to mark our first hosting of a major professional tournament with the South African Open,” said Serengeti CEO and developer, Leon van der Vyver. “There is so much history and tradition in this tournament, and we are proud to follow a long list of some of South Africa’s finest golf courses in being the host. It has always been our vision to stage a tournament of this stature and the golf course was designed with the spectator in mind. It came earlier than anticipated, but we are delighted. Jack Nicklaus set a benchmark in the game of golf during his playing career, and we believe that Serengeti will also set a new standard in terms of hosting the SA Open.”
“After the 100th playing of the South African Open last year, there is definitely a feeling that we have entered a new era in this championship’s illustrious history,” said Colin Burger, the President of the South African Golf Association (SAGA), who are the custodians of the SA Open.
“The SA Open forms part of the foundation of South African golf, and it is important that all South Africans are given an opportunity to share in its glory and history. So following an extended run, since 2001, at some of our finest coastal golf courses, we are delighted to see it return to Gauteng.”
This marks the first time that the national Open returns to Gauteng since it was played at Randpark Golf Club in 2000, and is the first major golf tournament to be hosted in the municipality of Ekurhuleni.
“The hosting of the SA Open Championship in Ekurhuleni gives me immense pleasure in that it confirms our capability as a metro to play host to major international events. The professional golfers taking part in the tournament will have the opportunity to explore the best that we have to offer,” said Mayor Mondli Gungubele, who attended the launch.
“Our hosting of the SA Open is in line with our triangular vision for sport, with mass participation at the base and elite championship sport at the apex. The SA Open sits at the apex of this triangle, as one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments for professional golfers. By hosting the SA Open we are marking the beginning of great things to come, as we position ourselves as an aerotropolis and gateway to Africa and the world. All we can say for now is ‘watch this space’.”
At the launch, the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation also confirmed its support of the South African Open, saying the tournament had a role to play in the government’s new National Sport and Recreation Plan.
“Events such as the South African Open are part of the process of creating a vibrant sport system that encourages growth and development, and supports South Africans to be world-beaters,” said MEC, Lebogang Maile.
“We need to maximise the social and economic benefits that sport has for the people of South Africa. This tournament brings with it the inspirational impact of encouraging our youth to participate in sport, particularly golf, while it also brings vital job creation in the sport and recreation sector.”
The return of Els in defence of his title confirms the status of the SA Open as not only the flagship tournament in South African golf, but also as one of the highlights of the international golf calendar.
“We are delighted to have Ernie confirm his place in the field, and we look forward to some of the world’s leading golfers joining him at Serengeti, which is a magnificent venue for our national Open,” said Selwyn Nathan, Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour.
“South African golf is in the midst of a golden era on the global stage, and the South African Open will once again serve as a wonderful opportunity to showcase this success worldwide.”